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Meigs, Fort

When, in 1813, General Harrison heard of the advance of Winchester to the Maumee and the Raisin, he ordered all of his available force to push forward to reinforce that officer. The advancing column was soon met by fugitives from Frenchtown, and thoughts of marching on Malden were abandoned for the time. The troops fell back to the rapids of the Maumee, and there built a fortification which was called Fort Meigs, in honor of the governor of Ohio. Harrison's troops there were about 1,800 in number, and were employed under the direction of Captain Wood, chief engineer of his army. The work was about 2,500 yards in circumference, the whole of which, with the exception of several small intervals left for block-houses, was to be picketed with timber 15 feet long and from 10 to 12 inches in diameter, set 3 feet in the ground. When the fort was finished, March, 1813, the general and engineer left the camp in the care of Captain Leftwich, who ceased work upon it, utterly neglected the suffering garrison, and actually burned the pickets for fire-wood. On the return of Wood, work on the fort was resumed, and pushed towards completion.

Harrison had forwarded Kentucky troops from Cincinnati, and on April 12 he himself arrived at Fort Meigs. He had been informed on the way of the frequent appearance of Indian scouts near the rapids, and little skirmishes with what he supposed to be the advance of a more powerful force. Expecting to find Fort Meigs invested by the British and Indians, he took with him all the troops on the Auglaize and St. Mary's Rivers. He was agreeably disappointed to find, on his arrival, that no enemy was near in force. They soon appeared, however. Proctor, at Fort Malden, had formed plans for an early invasion of the Maumee [156] Valley. Ever since the massacre at Frenchtown he had been active in concentrating a large Indian force for the purpose at Amherstburg. He so fired the zeal of Tecumseh and the Prophet by promises

Looking up the Maumee Valley, from Fort Meigs.

of future success in the schemes for an Indian confederation that, at the beginning of April, the great Shawnee warrior was at Fort Malden with 1,500 Indians. Full 600 of them were drawn from the country between Lake Michigan and the Wabash. On April 23 Proctor, with white and dusky soldiers, more than 2,000 in number, left Amherstburg on a brig and smaller vessels, and, accompanied by two gunboats and some artillery, arrived at the mouth of the Maumee, 12 miles from Fort Meigs, on the 26th, where they landed. One of the royal engineers (Captain Dixon) was sent up with a party to construct works on the left bank of the Maumee, opposite Fort Meigs.

On April 28 Harrison was informed of the movement of Proctor and his forces. He knew that Gen. Green Clay was on the march with Kentuckians, and he despatched Capt. William Oliver with an oral message urging him to press forward by forced marches. Meanwhile Proctor and his forces had arrived, and on the morning of May l, 1813, he opened a cannonade and bombardment from the site of Maumee City upon Fort Meigs, and continued, with slight intermission, for five days, but without much injury to the fort and garrison. The fire was returned occasionally by 18-pounders. The Americans had built a strong traverse athwart the fort, behind which they were sheltered. Their ammunition was scarce, and it was used sparingly; they had an abundant supply of food and water for a long siege. Still Harrison felt anxious. He looked hourly up the Maumee for the appearance of Clay with reinforcements. The latter had heard the cannonading at the fort, and had pressed forward as rapidly as possible. Proctor had thrown a force of British and Indians across the river to gain the rear of the fort, and these the vanguard of Clay encountered. When the latter officer drew near he received explicit orders from Harrison to detach 800 men from his brigade, to be landed on the left bank of the river, a mile and a half above Fort Meigs, to attack the British batteries, spike their guns, destroy their carriages, and then cross the river to the fort; the remainder of Clay's troops to fight their way to the fort.

These orders met Clay as he was descending the Maumee in boats (May 5). Colonel Dudley was appointed to lead the expedition against the British batteries. The work was successfully performed; but a band of riflemen, under Capt. Leslie Combs, being attacked by some Indians in ambush, Dudley led reinforcements to them. The Indians were soon put to flight, but Dudley, unmindful of his instructions, pushed on in pursuit, leaving Col. Isaac Shelby in charge of the batteries. Both the British and Indians were reinforced; the batteries were retaken; and after a sharp fight, in which Shelby's troops participated, Dudley's whole command was put to flight, and dispersed in great [157] confusion. A great part of them were killed or captured. Dudley was slain and scalped, and Combs and many companions were marched to Fort Miami below as prisoners. Of the 800 who landed from the boats only 170 escaped to Fort Meigs.

While these scenes were occurring on the left bank of the Maumee, there was a desperate struggle on the fort side. A part of the remainder of Clay's command, under Col. W. E. Boswell, having landed a short distance above the fort, were ordered to fight their way in. They were soon attacked by a body of British and Indians, but were joined by a sallying party from the fort; and while a sharp struggle was going on there, Harrison ordered a helpful sortie from the fort to attack some works cast up by the enemy near a deep ravine. This was done by 350 men, under Col. John Miller, of the regulars. They found a motley force there, 850 strong, but they were soon driven away and their cannon spiked. The fight was desperate, the Americans being surrounded at one point by four times their own number. The victors returned to the fort with forty-three captives. Boswell in the mean time had utterly routed the force before him at the point of the bayonet. Fort Meigs was saved. The result of that day's fighting, and the illsuccess of all efforts to reduce the fort, caused Proctor's Indian allies to desert him, and the Canadian militia to turn their faces homeward. The Prophet had been promised by Proctor the whole Territory of Michigan as his trophy, and Tecumseh was to have the person of General Harrison, whom he had intensely hated since the battle of Tippecanoe (q. v.), as his. These promises were unfulfilled, and the Indians left in disgust. Only Tecumseh's commission and pay of a brigadier-general in the British army secured his further services.

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